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10 Things I Wish Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism

10 Things I Wish all Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism via @ACatholicNewbie

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I’ve had several interactions  with non-Catholic Christians since my conversion where I’ve realized they are not aware of some basic tenets of our faith that I think would go a long way in bridging any divides between us and provide them, at least, with some perspective of where we are coming from and a more accurate understanding of our beliefs.

We shouldn’t expect non-Catholics to know about the Catholic religion unless they’ve taken the time to explore it for themselves. I certainly did not know any of these things before seeking out the Church, but I definitely wish I had!

So, non-Catholics, here are 10 things I, a former non-Catholic :), want you to know about Catholicism:

  1. We believe that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine we consume at every Mass. I think this one fact explains so much about the Catholic faith that is misunderstood by non-Catholics. This is why we have to go to mass every week, this is why our churches are ornate and our vessels are made of precious metals, this is why non-Catholics cannot receive communion unless they have professed their belief, this is why if a wafer falls on the floor it is treated with the utmost reverence. This is why we cannot be satisfied in any other church — we cannot leave Jesus behind. This belief in the physical presence of Jesus dates back to the first Christians. Read the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch (who knew the Apostle John and was born in 35 AD) in his Letter to the Romans about the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A great, easy-to-read book on this topic is the “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn. 
  2. We believe you can go to heaven, too! I think many non-Catholics may wrongly assume that Catholics think they are the only ones getting into heaven. We are not God; only God knows such things. We do believe that we have found the path that gives us the most assistance in entering heaven through the sacraments Jesus left behind (communion, marriage, reconciliation/confession, confirmation, etc.) but we certainly don’t think the doors are only open to us.
  3. We believe in the authority of the Pope and the Church of Rome, because that is what early Christians practiced. Again, see the Letters of St. Ignatius in his deference to the Church of Rome along with the example of many other early Christian leaders (email me for more). We are following the example of what the apostles taught the early Christians. Great article on this topic. I highly recommend doing this research and reading early Christian documents for yourself. Don’t take my word for it! Catholic Answers has a great book called “The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church” by Jimmy Akin that is a good overview of this topic.
  4. We follow what the early Christians practiced in our “Tradition,” because there was 300 years before the New Testament was compiled. The Catholic Church’s teachings are based on both Scripture and what the Church refers to as “Tradition.” Tradition is factored in, because there was a period of 300 years after Jesus’ death and before an official compilation of New Testament documents was compiled. We follow the tradition that was practiced during that time, because it was comprised of the beliefs, teachings and rituals handed down from Jesus himself to the apostles and on to their successors. This includes teachings like Mary’s Immaculate Conception (she was conceived without sin in order to give birth to God as man), her Perpetual Virginity (she never had any other children and remained a virgin) and her Assumption body and soul into heaven, beliefs that were held by early Christians and only made “official” by the Church after they were challenged over time. Many wrongly hold that these doctrines were created at the councils where they were affirmed, but rather the councils simply made official these doctrines long held and practiced by early Christians. Great books to read more about the Church’s teachings on Mary include “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines” by Tim Staples and Meet Your Mother by Mark Miravalle.
  5. We hold many of the same beliefs! We are not so different. We belief in the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death. We believe in Jesus, the son of God who came to reconcile us with the Father. We believe that everyone needs to hear the Good News and that it’s our job to go out and tell the world! We believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. That’s just the beginning…
  6. Confession is not a place to get rid of all your wrongdoings without contrition only to go back and do them again. I remember watching a movie of a young man returning to the priest every week to report how often he masturbated, only to go back and do it all again. That’s not the goal and your sins are not forgiven that way. The idea is to go confess your sins with true repentance (not with plans to go right back and do them again), receive forgiveness and graces (heavenly assistance) to keep from doing those sins again from Jesus (Did you know that we believe that Jesus is present in the priest in the confessional?), and to try earnestly not to commit those sins in the future. An easy-to-read book on Confession is “7 Secrets of Confession” by Vinny Flynn.
  7. There is an unbroken line of succession from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. This fact initially blew me away during my education on the Church. The Catholic Church can trace a laying on of hands (as was done in the Acts of the Apostles when they added deacons) all the way back from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. That is powerful stuff!
  8. We read the Bible, too! Over a period of three years, if you attended daily mass, you would hear readings from nearly every book in the Bible. And, of course, we do plenty of Bible reading on our own, as well, though you may find us less likely to be able to tell you the chapter and verse, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t educated on God’s inspired word. In fact, Catholicism taught me a key fact about the Bible that makes it so much more interesting: it’s called typology and it means that the Old Testament foreshadows the events of the New Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old. It’s fascinating to see the parallels, such as between Abraham and Jesus, Adam and Jesus, Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, Eve and Mary, and on and on and on. Here’s a fascinating read on that topic: New Testament Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma (hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read!).
  9. The Catholic Church is made up of sinners. Yes, we are a Church of sinners. That is why Jesus came to reconcile us, but despite his help and graces we still remain in the fallen state of sin inherited by Adam and Eve. Yes, we have child molesters. Yes, Catholics have done bad things in the name of religion. Yes, we have murdered, stolen, been greedy, disobeyed God and more. But so has the rest of the world; it’s part and parcel with being a part of fallen humanity. Such wrongdoers should justly be punished and will certainly be judged by their actions on the last day. Jesus, however, promised that nothing would prevail against the Church (not even sinners) and left us with the Holy Spirit (not humans) to guide it. That’s why we hold true to the teachings of the Church, no matter its sinners, and why even if a priest is a sinner, his sacramental actions are still valid. They are not his works, but those of the Holy Spirit and Jesus within him.
  10. Don’t let hypocritical Catholics mislead you. I’ve often been pointed to examples of Catholics who don’t follow the truth of the Church in the way they live their lives as reasons why the Catholic church is wrong or bad. As above, we are made up of sinners just like the rest of the world, and there will be these people. But don’t let them cloud your image of the Church left by Jesus. The priest who asked for a bribe for an annulment was wrong; the Catholics shouting obscenities at the Notre Dame football game are wrong; the politician promoting abortion rights receiving communion is wrong. But like all sinners, Jesus welcomes them to repent, stop their wrong actions and come back to the fold. Rather, I challenge you to seek devout Catholics who live their faith fully. You will find models of holiness and witnesses of Christian joy beyond your wildest imaginings.

Thanks for taking the time to read. What questions do you have about Catholicism?

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Getting to Know Jesus: 10 Ways to Grow Closer to our Lord and Savior

Getting to Know Jesus: 10 Ways to Grow Closer via @ACatholicNewbie

If you want to become holy, be a saint, remain steadfast in your Christian faith, you’ve got to get to know Jesus. I struggled with this early on in my conversion. I felt like I did not know Jesus, that He did not want to know me (why would He want to know lowly ol’ me?) and I was, in fact, intimated by him. I pictured Jesus overthrowing the money-changers’ tables and some of the harsher statements he made. So I was distant.

But soon I realized that if I was going to be a saint — or strive to be — I’d better get to know Jesus!

Here are 10 ways I found that helped me draw closer and truly develop a personal relationship with Jesus, something I believe is crucial to true Christian conversion:

  1. Receive Jesus – Tops on the list of ways to grow closer to Jesus has to be receiving him in the form of the Eucharist. This is a special gift enjoyed by Catholics, whose priests transform ordinary bread and wine into the living God by repeating Jesus’ words at the last supper. When we receive Jesus, we meet Him in the flesh and we literally carry Him with us out into the world. Receive Jesus as often as you can!
  2. Read the Gospels over and over – This tip I attribute to author Matthew Kelly, but it’s a key one. A wonderful way to get to know Jesus better is to read about him and the main place we can do that is through the Gospels. Read them over and over, a little each day, letting Jesus’ words and actions sink in. Kelly, in his book Rediscover Jesus, recommends imagining yourself as different people in the stories to place yourself in the context of what is happening.
  3. Spend time in adoration – In addition to receiving the Eucharist, we can also be in Jesus’ presence by simply being in the presence of the Eucharist. Try to visit your church’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel (where you can always find Jesus in the Eucharist identified by the red candle burning outside the door) or during Adoration where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed versus locked away. Read, pray, write or just sit in the quiet presence of Jesus. Many experience vocational callings and other insights during adoration.
  4. Encounter Him in Reconciliation – Did you know when you go to Reconciliation, you are in the presence of Jesus? Jesus is present in the priest, no matter which priest you see. In Reconciliation, he pours out his mercy upon us, forgiving our sins and giving us graces to help us from sinning again and to grow in holiness. Other than the Eucharist, it’s one of the few places you can encounter Jesus. Go and go often!
  5. Choose a stage of Jesus’ life you can relate to – If you’re like me and struggled feeling close to the Jesus in the Gospels, consider Jesus at a more vulnerable time of life. St. Therese of Liseiux developed a devotion to the infant Jesus. Can you picture Jesus as a tiny baby, cooing in his mother’s arms, nestled close to Mary’s heart? Start there. Talk to the Baby Jesus or Jesus as a youth, working with his father as a carpenter.
  6. Talk to Jesus – How can you really get to know anyone without talking to them regularly? You can read about them, but is that the same as really knowing them? Develop the HABIT of talking to Jesus all day long. Thank Him for the beautiful day, the blue skies and birds singing — for every good thing that happens during your day. Ask for help when you have a decision to make — big or small. Tell Him when you are frustrated, stressed, happy or joyful. He wants you to talk to Him!
  7. Read Jesus Calling – It can be hard, of course, when the person you’re trying to get to know doesn’t talk back to you — in words, at least. I’ve found Jesus Calling, and the version for kids, to be a great way for me and my kids to grow closer to Jesus. The book is a daily reflection where the author puts all of Jesus’ teachings into words, as if He were talking directly to you. It’s helps us, in all our humanness, to hear His words as if they were spoken directly to us.
  8. Read Rediscover Jesus – Author Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic has written a new book with the aim of helping Christians — and all people — develop a personal relationship with Jesus. He does a wonderful job of considering Jesus’ teachings and the example He left us to help us understand how we can live as He desired in the context of our modern society.
  9. Pray the Rosary – Of course, we associate the rosary with Mary, because she’s the one who gave us the prayer, asked us to pray it and it’s filled with Hail Marys. But the Rosary is really about Jesus. If you pray the rosary daily — or as often as you can — you will be meditating day in and day out on the life of Jesus. Each day is a different set of “mysteries” or events in Jesus’ life to meditate upon as you say the prayers of the rosary. You’ll find new insights pour in as you contemplate these events over and over every time you pray the rosary.
  10. Read The Diary of St. Faustina and the Flame of Love (free copy here) – These two books, which are approved by the Catholic Church as communications of Jesus, present a more personal voice of Jesus and can help you relate better to Him. Two passages I bring to mind often while looking at the Cross are His request that Elizabeth Kindelmann call him “my most adorable Jesus” and his request that she imagine herself “nestled close to his merciful heart.” I can certainly picture myself there.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to get to know Jesus! Please share what has worked for you and what a difference it has made in your life to have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.

8 Free Catholic Items to Deepen Your Faith

8 Free Catholic Items to Deepen Your Faith  @ACatholicNewbie

Did you know there’s quite a lot of amazing Catholic books, tools and more that are waiting for you to order them at either no cost or for a very small shipping fee or donation? These are amazing tools that just might be what you need to light the spark in your faith if it’s started to dim or to make it burn even brighter.

I’ve stumbled across many of these over the last few years and here are some of my absolute favorites. Go order them for yourselves right now!

1) Rediscovering Catholicism – Matthew Kelly and his DynamicCatholic.com organization offer tons of free books and resources on their website. But my favorite is his original book on Catholicism, Rediscovering Catholicism. This is what helped me early on understand Catholicism and its relevance in light of our society today. EVERYONE should read this book. It will bring your faith to life for you! Order here + $5.95 shipping & handling.

2) The Rosary and Divine Chaplet on CD – The easiest way to start praying the rosary is to order this CD and stick it in your car. Pray whenever you have quiet drive time. If you don’t yet know how to pray the rosary, this is the easiest way to learn. They pray it for you and you can either just listen to them or repeat back as you begin to learn the prayers. Order it here for just a $1 donation. Here are more ideas for fitting the rosary into your busy day.

3) Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary materialsRead my blog on Total Consecration (a process I highly recommend) and if you decide you feel called to make this commitment to Mary, order free materials to help you through process from MyConsecration.org. This practice, made popular by St. Louis de Monfort and Pope John Paul II, can be completed in several ways. If you’re interested in the more classic, prayer-filled preparation from St. Louis de Monfort, order those materials free here. If you’re interested in a more modern interpretation and requires less time, order 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley for free.

4) Flame of Love – Similar to St. Faustina’s visions of Jesus and subsequent diary, Flame of Love written by Elizabeth Kindelmann shares messages she says she received between 1961 and 1982 from both Jesus and Marty. They are similar to those of St. Faustina and other approved Marian messages  around the world. Order your free copy of her book. At the National Congress of The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary movement in Budapest, Hungary, June 6, 2009, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop President of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary and President, Council of Episcopal Conferences in Europe, gave the text his Imprimatur.

5) Mass Journal – Another great free tool offered by DynamicCatholic.com is a mass journal. Bring this notebook with you to mass and write down any messages from God or thoughts that occur to you during mass, so you don’t forget. Order here + $5.95 shipping & handling.

6) The Conversion of Scott Hahn CD – I recently heard a fellow parishoner, who was a lifelong Protestant, mention this CD as key to her understanding and ultimate conversion to Catholicism. Hahn is a wonderful writer who helps explain the Catholic faith in his many books. He is a former Protestant minister turned Catholic convert. Order for just a $1 donation.

7) St. Therese Novena Prayer Card – Many Catholics have a devotion to the “Little Flower,” St. Therese of Lisieux (my confirmation saint, whom I adore). It is said if you pray her novena for a specific intention, she will send you a sign in the form of a rose. I’ve received my rose (read about my signs from St. Therese)! See if you get yours. Simply order this free St. Therese Novena Prayer Card from the Society of the Little Flower. You can also order prayer cards, even ones touched to a relic, for $.55 or less.

8) Prayer Process Cards – This is a wonderful exercise suggested by Matthew Kelly that you strive to complete daily. It encourages you to prayerfully consider your day from what messages God was speaking to you to what you could have done better to thanking God and praying for others. These cards are a simple reminder of the process to keep by your bedside, on your side table, in your prayer area or wherever. They send 20 at a time with $5.95 shipping & handling, so share with your friends!

Can RCIA Candidates go to Daily Mass?

Can RCIA Candidates go to Daily Mass

In reviewing my website analytics, I discovered that someone came across my blog after typing this question into Google. I just wanted to provide a big old YES! You can most definitely attend any type of mass as an RCIA candidate or even as a non-Catholic. The only thing you cannot participate in is receiving the Eucharist.

While I was in RCIA, I attended daily mass quite often. I learned SO much from the homilies and was inspired to learn more on a variety of different topics. I always chose to go up and receive a blessing from the priest during mass, though if you are uncomfortable, you don’t need to do that. I always looked at it as I’ll take any and all blessings I can get :).

If you choose to go up, just cross your arms over your chest and the priest will know you would like to receive a blessing instead of communion. Or alternately, you can just stand in the pew and wave others past you. Catholics do not receive communion if they feel they have committed a mortal sin, as we must be in a worthy state to receive, so you likely will not be alone in not receiving the Eucharist.

One other note, I felt daily mass was confusing at first, as it seemed different to me than Sunday mass. It is a shortened form and sometimes they choose alternate versions of some of the things we speak aloud. Find a guide to the mass and bring it along. You may also want to pick up guidebook outside the chapel or church or get yourself a missal, which has the daily readings, as well as the Entrance Antiphon, which we say at the beginning of mass, and the Communion Antiphon, which we say at the end of mass. Just follow along with everyone else and after a few weeks, you’ll have it down pat.

Got other questions about RCIA? Shout! I would love to help.

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